A lifestyle statement

The 1994 film The Mask is all about a bank clerk who turns into a supernatural man upon wearing a mystical mask. Essentially, the mask changes his life forever. And today, nearly 25 years after the movie’s release, as we humans turn to masks as a means of remaining insulated from the pandemic, there are concerns as well on the psychological impacts of wearing masks on an individual’s sense of self-worth, competence, freedom and relatedness.
An easy way to feel empowered in the face of the Hobson’s choice humans have with regard to wearing a mask is to add cultural and intellectual dimensions to the piece of cloth and make it a lifestyle statement. This could offer the mask making industry better growth prospects. Significantly, the global face mask market, led by major mask manufacturers such as 3M, Honeywell, KOWA, Uvex and McKesson, is valued at $4,581.9 million in 2020, and is well on its way to reach $21,210 million by the end of 2026, logging a CAGR of 24.2 per cent during 2021-2026.
No doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has considerably boosted the sale of face masks the world over. For instance, Etsy Inc, the American e-commerce marketplace focused on handmade and vintage items and craft products, reported better sales in the fiscal third quarter driven by increased demand from shoppers looking for masks, even as the global retail sector showed signs of weakness.
Etsy’s revenue more than doubled to $451.5 million from a year ago, and has sold 24 million face masks in the September quarter alone.
Without some kind of artistic value addition, a face mask is merely a loose-fitting, disposable device that is used as a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and possible viruses and pollutants in the environment. Also face masks are an entirely personal accessory and can be categorised as surgical, isolation, dental or medical procedure masks even as they vary greatly in thicknesses and their effectiveness in protecting the wearer from contaminants.
Sans an element of art, the comfort level of a face mask is determined solely by how smoothly one can breathe through it, while its effectiveness is totally decided by the level of protection it offers.
As a necessary personal accessory, a face mask has more to it than meets the eye, and is claiming its rightful place in the creative realm. Face masks are capturing the imagination of the wider public, and the mushrooming YouTube videos out there explaining how to design and sell face attractive masks online amply proves this.
Demand for designer face masks is on the rise. Among the most creative face masks available today are those by Linda Woods. Rich in colour, texture and symbolism, Linda’s face masks effortlessly turn around the uncertainty, gloom and fear of COVID-19 into hope, courage and tenacity.
Her online shopping site features face masks under “apparel”, and we can find an amazing range of pure artworks that equally enlighten and entertain us. From abstracts, beach and coastal, floral, landscapes to fun patterns, lifestyle, food and drink, travel and sympathy cards, her collection of face masks is sure to cater to the varied artistic expectations of discerning customers.
Is face mask a style statement in the Sultanate? The question is relevant given that Omani artist Alia al Farsi’s face mask design was recently chosen by Unesco for its COVID-19 awareness project. It seems that designer face masks are yet to blossom as an art form in the Sultanate. Who knows, face masks that feature the myriad layers of Omani culture and heritage could unleash the next wave of innovative or experimental art here.